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Navigating Transitions

It’s 3:30 in the morning and I am wide awake. It’s been happening more often lately, given that I am less than two weeks away from my due date. Soon, my husband and I will have two children. Our daughter will have a brother. I will no longer be pregnant, a state I’ve been in for nearly 9 months. Rather than going to work everyday, I will stay home for 3 months. I will, by necessity, upend my current patterns and habits and learn new ones. To say I’m in a state of transition might be an understatement.

Transitions are funny things. They get us from one point to another, but they aren’t really a place. We cannot stay in transition for very long – we tend to crave some stability and predictability. Transitions create a sense of unknown that is both exciting and uncomfortable. They suggest the need to prepare and at the same time, we know we cannot prepare for what is coming after the transition – the future is unknowable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this transition state, and considering what I am or can be doing to ease some of the potential anxiety. The truth is, I am pretty calm. And here’s why I think that is:


Awareness is powerful.I know I am in transition. Knowing you are in a state of transition is meaningful because you acknowledge that your life isn’t the same now and won’t be the same on the other side. I am not trying to rush through to what is next (it’s impossible), but I am imagining some likely scenarios and possible futures. I am also letting go. [Insert obligatory elsa gif here]

If you find yourself thinking things like,  

“that’s new.”
“that’s never happened before.”
“when this is over, I’ll…”

You might be in a state of transition.

Consider what’s on the horizon that is creating this liminal space. It might be obvious – impending end of the year, job or role change, physical move, etc. Or it might be something subtle or slow, like aging or changing beliefs. Identifying the shifts and changes occurring in our lives can better help us to prepare for and manage those transitions with patience and sensitivity.

Values Exercise

Once you know you’re in a state of transition and some elements of what contributes to that transition, I recommend taking time to do a brief Values Reflection. Leaders who reflect on their values can better use those to guide decision-making and action. We usually think about values as somewhat fixed, as guideposts for who we are. Instead, what I’m suggesting is to consider which values might be more applicable to you given the transition you are in. I recently engaged in this exercise as part of a coaching class through the College of Executive Coaching. Using a list of values, consider these questions:

In this stage of life, which values are most important to me?
What values must I honor to be true to this chapter of my life?

I wrote the following in response:

First, this chapter is marked by transition. Transition in my role, in motherhood of two children. I want to be present in all things, and accepting of the time that things take to change. I want to be flexible and give grace. The values that I should honor to be true to this time of my life are:

  • Authenticity so that I can do what I can to be who I am.
  • Caring so that my husband, children, family, friends, and colleagues feel that they are important to me no matter what else is happening.
  • Connectedness, especially with my husband so that we both feel part of the process, and with my daughter so that she feels positive about her new role and experience in our family.
  • Excellence so that I continue to do my best in my roles, recognizing the ebb and flow of those roles.
  • Excitement because everything that is happening is so wonderful.
  • Family Happiness so that I don’t forget why I do what I do – it’s for them.
  • Growth so that I see these experiences as capability enhancing rather than weakness promoting. Remember that I am better than I was and continue to improve when and where I can.
  • Leadership so that I continue to explore how I do my job to the best of my ability and to role model the kind of leadership I want to see from others. I want to be part of a leadership experience that is affirming for all.
  • Lightness so I remember that all the challenges will pass and to see the humor and growth in frustrating situations.
  • Nurturing of my children and of my team. To treat these people as precious to me.
  • Partnership with my husband – we are equals and we are in it together. Partnership with my team to feel that we are moving forward together.
  • Trust in others, in the process, in myself, in the idea that it will all work out.

Some of these values are those I have held for many years and demonstrate regularly. Some are not, but they are strongly aligned to my core values, so I have confidence that I can demonstrate behaviors that reflect them even in the midst of transition. And here’s the thing, the moment this baby is here, the transition stage is over, and I enter a new stage in which having these values to guide me can only be helpful. Knowing this, my purpose for the next few years is to be both gentle and fierce – gentle in my interactions with others and with my own growing and fierce in my commitment to my family, my team, my goals.

*Leadership Lesson*

You can conduct your own Values Reflection for you or your group using this Values Sheet:

  • Mark the top 10 values that really resonate with you or that you think are the most important. This doesn’t mean that you think that the other values on the list aren’t important, it just means that these are the ones that you refer back to the most when you are making decisions.
  • Now rank your top 10 values in order of importance. It’s challenging, but see if you can lock in your top 5 values and write down what these values really mean to you.
  • Refer back to this Value List when you recognize that you are going through a transition. What values are important to help guide you? How do they align with your top 5 core values? How will you grow or develop through the transition?


*Meet the Author*

Kenna’s life work is about helping people work better together – and she’s starting to realize that this is not just professional work but personal too! Kenna fills her time with meaningful relationships with her husband of 11 years, 3 year old daughter, incredible family & friends and significant work at City of Hope, Alliant International University and Leadership Inspirations while carving time for herself.